23 Nov 2014

Football Ferns fall to France

10:56 am on 23 November 2014

The New Zealand women's football coach Tony Readings wants his team to display more self belief after going down 2-1 to world number four France in Laval this morning.

The New Zealand women's football coach Tony Readings wants his team to display more self belief after going down 2-1 to world number four France in Laval this morning.

Amber Hearn

Amber Hearn Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Football Ferns are taking on three major internationals against France and Norway in six days as they begin their preparations to next year's FIFA Women's World Cup where their goal is to progress to the knockout stages.

In their first major clash against a top-10 ranked since June, the Football Ferns began passively but were more than competitive in the final 60 minutes.

This tour is a litmus test of their game in the run-in to the World Cup in Canada, with Readings happy with some elements but frustrated by the slow start.

"From the outside losing 2-1 away to the fourth best team in the world -arguably the best right now after beating Germany 2-0 two weeks ago away - might sound pretty good and in some parts it was," Readings said.

"But we know we can do better in certain parts of the game and that is all part of the journey for us. We said before that we will learn from what worked well and learn from the things that didn't work so well, and that is the case today."

Mostly he wants to see his team push harder from the start, though he was pleased with the improvement in their play without the ball, something the team had worked hard on.

"We need to press a lot earlier in the game, winning the ball earlier so when we get the ball we have more opportunities like the one Helen [Collins] took which was a top international class goal."

"We created a few half chances but not enough to beat a team like France."

"That said, it was a good learning game for us and for long periods we were able to compete strongly."

"We will take all of this into account and look to make more improvements against Norway."

France, the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup and London Olympic semi-finalists took a 10th minute lead through Eugenie Le Sommer.

The French striker took the ball down expertly with her chest and thumped in a powerful left-footed volley which left goalkeeper Erin Nayler with no chance.

After that moment of quality, the home side stepped up their work with the ball and 10 minutes later Le Sommer's acrobatic volley was only denied by an excellent goal-line clearance by Rebekah Stott.

As the half wore on the Football Ferns grew more into the game in an attacking sense but were unable to create a regular threat to the French back four - a Ria Percival free kick which just evaded Amber Hearn was the best chance the Football Ferns had in the opening 45 minutes.

By and large the Football Ferns defensive unit coped well with the threat of the French side in the second half until debutant Kadidiatou Diani made it 2-0 late on with a goal struck at the second attempt after her first effort was blocked by the New Zealand defence.

But the Ferns kept pressing and substitute Helen Collins was rewarded in stoppage time.

The Claudelands Rovers striker collected Betsy Hassett's flick from a Percival free kick and holding off a French challenge, volleyed in from a tight angle to get the Ferns on the board.

The next match of the Football Ferns European tour is against Norway on Wednesday at 6am (NZ time).